Monthly Archives: June 2016

Old Money—Will the Steelers Be Able to Afford Antonio Brown?


Dale Lolley just returned from vacation, and the first thing he wrote about was the new contract the Seahawks gave Doug Baldwin. The contract is for four years, $46 million, $24 million guaranteed. This now moves Antonio Brown, the (almost) undisputed best receiver in the NFL, into 18th place in the league in terms of wide receiver pay. There is no doubt there are guys on the list above Antonio making far more money for far less production.

This raises two questions—1) when the time for contract renewal comes up, can the Steelers afford Antonio, and 2) should they try? Brown turns 28 in a week, and has two years left on the current deal, although the Steelers typically work a year ahead with players they know they want to keep. So if they negotiate a new deal next summer, Brown will be 29. What does this say about his value going forward?

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Meet the New Steeler: Punter Will Monday

photo: Mark Watson

As W. S. Gilbert, the librettist half of the Gilbert and Sullivan of operetta fame might say, a punter’s lot is not a happy one. Few fans appreciates what a punter does until he does something unfortunate. Even fewer fans want to “waste” draft selections on a punter, and some misguided (in my opinion, at least) fans are still bemoaning the use of a fourth-round pick on Daniel Sepulveda. Just in handsomeness, Sepulveda more than paid his way, at least for a certain segment of the fan base of which I am a member.

And when the game is on the line and you need to pin the opposing team deep in their own end zone, like, say, in the Steelers-Broncos game last January, all of a sudden it would be really nice to have a punter who could reliably do so. Someone like, say, the Ravens’ Sam Koch, who was one of the top punters in the league last season. And whatta you know—the Ravens spent a sixth-round pick on him. The top punter in the league, or close, most years seems to be the Colts’ Pat McAfee, and they spent a seventh-round pick on him. I’m not casting aspersions on our recent punters, just noting that it is easy to undervalue the position.

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A Blast from the Past: Third Round Part 2

Charles LeClaire/USA Today Sports Sean Spence takes the field during his rookie training camp.

The 2012 third round pick was someone we were all pretty excited about by partway through his first training camp. Sean Spence was fast, and he was a football player. Before that, though, some of us had concerns about him. The first knock on him was his size, the second his intelligence, the third his character. All of these except possibly the first are ironic in retrospect. Here’s what I wrote immediately after he was drafted:

Mike Tomlin said in the post­-draft presser, “he encompasses a lot of football character things that we value.” But there were some concerns. Reportedly, he got a 12 on the Wonderlic, and he was suspended for one game in college for “receiving improper benefits.” The NCAA violation was already an issue with the second round pick. In Spence’s case it was not a big deal. It does, however, call into question his intelligence, which was already reeling from the blow of getting a 12 on the Wonderlic.

But how much does the Wonderlic really matter?  It is a multiple choice intelligence test given at the combine, and is used by employers. It is designed to test the capacity of prospective employees for problem­ solving and learning. A score of 20 (out of 50 questions) indicates average intelligence, correlating to an IQ of around 100. Read more

Developing the Talent: Outside Linebackers Coach Joey Porter

As I typed the title for this article I felt a great sense of anticipation. Some articles are easy to write, some are difficult. Some are slow going, but gratifying, but I have a feeling this one is going to be just plain fun. There’s something about Coach Porter that just makes me smile.

Because Joey Porter was already gone from Pittsburgh before I became a Steelers fan, I missed seeing him play. But you don’t have to have seen him play to have heard the stories. The King of Trash Talk—the baddest, most brash player around. His reputation precedes him, as a larger-than-life member of the Steelers revival, I suppose you might call it—when the Steelers finally took home a Lombardi after a 26-year hiatus.

But there is much more to Coach Porter than meets the eye, or ear.

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The Sunday Football-Related Music Post: Chiefly About Jazz


Recently the following item from 2015 caught my eye:

Chiefs Linebackers Tour the American Jazz Museum with Local High School Football Team 

Before the tour had even begun at the American Jazz Museum Wednesday afternoon, linebacker Dee Ford, already very familiar with the building, made his way to an area of it called the “Blue Room.”

The “Blue Room,” while honoring the history of Kansas City jazz with several exhibitions in it, also serves as an active club to this day.

Inside of it, next to a stage, sits a piano.

Ford, of course, couldn’t resist.

“I always do that,” he said. “Any time I see a piano, I touch it.”

As has been well documented, one of Ford’s favorite off-the-field activities is playing piano, which he believes has multiple benefits.

“It’s another level of skill that I can actually take to the field,” he explained. “That’s one thing that actually mentally helps me pick up defenses … It’s relaxing, but at the same time, it’s still another level of knowledge, another level of brain power that you have because it’s hard.”

I’ve discussed during this series how impossible it is to excel at both football and music simultaneously. Generally speaking, the music produced by active players confirms this. But the short video of Ford playing which accompanied the article intrigued me, and I decided to check him out.

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Shaun Suisham: Best in Class

steelersThis is going to be a tough article to write. One of my favorite Steelers announced today that he is leaving the NFL. I’ll let him start. Here’s the statement he released:

“Thank you Pittsburgh and all of Steelers Nation!

“Unfortunately, the injury I sustained in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game last preseason was catastrophic and has proven to be critical to continuing my career. My journey in the NFL has come to a crossroads.

“I was raised in Wallaceburg, Ontario, as a hockey player and have been on an improbable 16-year journey as a kicker, competing at the highest level. The absolute nature of my position has given me the opportunity to test my resolve, and I have grown both professionally and as a man.

“Undoubtedly, I will miss the challenge of game day and the preparation that is required. Change is hard, but I’m comfortable with where I am in life as a husband and father.

“I will always be grateful to every team and coach that has given me an opportunity in the NFL. I am especially grateful to everyone —teammates, coaches and fans — in our adopted hometown of Pittsburgh, Pa.

“Best always, Shaun Suisham and family.”

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Meet the New Steeler: DT Devaunte Sigler

Photo: Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star

Let’s get this out of the way first. Devaunte Sigler was a sophomore at Auburn when he was dismissed from the team for an unspecified violation of team rules. What he was actually dismissed for has apparently never surfaced. He wasn’t arrested—one of Auburn’s best players was dismissed a few months later after a marijuana arrest, but there was nothing on Sigler’s record other than a pending civil case over non-payment of his rent.

There was some speculation at the time that this was a chance for the new head coach to make a statement by dismissing a marginal player. There was also speculation that Sigler preferred the previous coaching staff and didn’t get along with the new coach. However, he later admitted that the downhill path, whatever it was, began before the new coach took over.

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I Like Ike—and He Likes the Steelers


AP photo/Mel Evans

Ike Taylor recently joined Bob Labriola and Missi Matthews of to give his take on the upcoming Steelers team. He had lots of interesting things to say, and did so in his usual inimitable fashion. But before they talked to Ike they talked about him.

Labriola noted that Ike had lost some weight and was still clearly in great shape. This was no surprise to Labriola, who compared Ike’s workout schedule and general work ethic to Antonio Brown. High praise, indeed.

Furthermore, Labriola noted that Ike went 10 or 11 years without ever missing a practice. Mike Prisuta still regales whoever will listen with his tale about the time Taylor went through the morning practice and then drove into Pittsburgh to have his thumb operated on. You don’t accumulate a streak of 135 consecutive games without toughing out a lot of stuff.

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A Blast from the Past: Third Round Part 1

Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports

In this series we have been revisiting the Steelers’ draft picks from 2010-2013. Links for the previous articles can be found at the end of this one.

The third-round pick in 2010 was one of three pro-bowlers the Steelers chose that year. WR Emmanuel Sanders became part of a group who dubbed themselves “Young Money,” and they were correct. Mike Wallace disdained the money the Steelers offered him, correctly assuming he could make more in free agency. Emmanuel Sanders was allowed to walk by the Steelers because they already knew what they had in Antonio Brown (although perhaps even they didn’t foresee just how good he would get.) Sanders was able to command a nice contract with the Broncos, and ironically is the only one of the trio who has a Super Bowl ring.

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Developing the Talent: Carnell Lake, Part II

image.jpegThe previous post was getting unwieldy, because there is a great deal to talk about in terms of both Lake and the coaching job he has done so far. In the first post we looked at Lake’s first season (2011) which represented a high point for the secondary. It’s been mostly downhill since. According to Football Outsiders, the 2012 team dropped to No. 15 in the league, the 2013 team was No. 19, and the 2014 team was No. 30.

But guess what? Last season they finished at No. 13, despite not starting a single defensive back who ranked higher than No. 24, according to Pro Football Focus, among players with enough snaps to be ranked. The highest-ranked corner was Ross Cockrell, at No. 27. The highest-ranked safety was Mike Mitchell, at the afore-mentioned No. 24. They considered Antwon Blake to be essentially the worst corner in the league (and much of Steeler Nation would agree with them, I expect.)

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